It’s the big one on Town Moor on the final day of the St Leger Festival as Doncaster racecourse plays host to its biggest race of the season. That’s right, it is time for the staying classic that is the historic St Leger.
Having been run for the first time in 1776, this is the oldest of the five Classics and was devised by Anthony St Leger, a local politician who owned the Park Hill estate to the south of Doncaster. This is the final Classic of the season and also the final leg of the Triple Crown and Fillies’ Triple Crown.
Next Race: TBD
The next renewal of this race has not been scheduled yet. We will update this once the schedule has been released for next season. The race info, trends and tips shown below will be updated for the next renewal once the final declarations have been made.
Last Run: 12th September 2020
- Winner: Galileo Chrome
- SP: 4/1
- Trainer: Joseph Patrick O'Brien
- Jockey: Tom Marquand
Run over a testing trip of 1m6½f, this Group 1 Classic contest which is open to all runners aged three and older, offers £350,000 in total prize money. The ground at the track is currently described as good and looks set to stay that way.
|Going||Distance||Grade||Prize Money||Runners||EW Terms|
|Good||1m6½f||Group 1||£350,000||11 Runners||1/5 1-3|
St Leger Stakes Betting Tips
Note: The following tips are from 2020. Tips for the next renewal will be added once the final declarations have been made.
Irish supremo Aidan O’Brien may still lie some way behind 16-time winner John Scott in the trainers’ table but, with five wins to his name, he is still the most successful of the handlers on show in this year’s field. O’Brien sends Santiago, Dawn Patrol and Mythical into battle this time around.
One ahead of Aidan O’Brien in terms of number of wins in this race is the biggest jockey in the sport, Frankie Dettori. The effervescent Italian will have high hopes of adding to that tally this year as he gets the leg up on Santiago.
This has been a fair race for the market leader of late, with four winning jollies in the past 10 years handing favourite backers a level stakes profit of £3.58.
|Pyledriver||3/1||119||William Muir||Martin Dwyer|
|Hukum||4/1||114||Owen Burrows||Jim Crowley|
|Santiago||3/1||114||Aidan O'Brien||Frankie Dettori|
Pyledriver – 3/1
Currently shading favouritism in most lists is the William Muir-trained Pyledriver. Hailing from one of the smaller yards, and being by a relatively unfashionable sire in Harbour Watch, it would have been tough to pick this one out as a potential classic winner at the start of the season. However, if he is judged purely on the form book, he has every chance of handing Muir the biggest success of his career to date.
He landed two wins from four races during his juvenile season, including a Listed event at Haydock, he then ended the campaign under something of a cloud when trailing home a distant last of nine in the Group 2 Royal Lodge Stakes at Newmarket. Back on track with a staying on second over 1m2f at Kempton on his return, he followed that up with a big career best in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot – thrusting his hat into the ring for the Derby in the process. Things didn’t go anything like to plan around the twists and turns of Epsom, but he isn’t the first, and won’t be the last horse we will say that about.
That performance did seem to lead to him being dismissed ahead of the Great Voltigeur Stakes at York though. In the end the colt made a mockery of his 10/1 odds that day, powering right away for a three and a half length success. He is stepping up two and a half furlongs in trip here, but that York performance puts him five pounds clear of the field on official ratings and if he stays, he will likely prove tough to beat.
Hukum – 4/1
The latecomer to the St Leger party is the Owen Burrows runner, Hukum, who goes in the hands of Jim Crowley and the colours of Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum. That’s a combination which has been hitting the winner’s enclosure with regularity this season, and it may do so again here, with this son of Sea The Stars looking to boast an excellent chance.
Raced just the twice at two years of age, his debut third place finish at Newbury didn’t set the pulse racing, but his next performance at Kempton certainly did. A mile back, and seemingly uninterested, the colt suddenly came to life once he moved into the clear to gain close to 10 lengths inside the final furlong and win with his head in his chest. It may have only been a novice event, but that win certainly had the wow factor, and he has delivered on that promise in his two starts of the current season.
Toughing it out in front to land the King George V Stakes at Royal Ascot, he was then stepped up in both trip and class for his most recent outing at Newbury. The trip may have been further, and the opposition of a higher calibre, but the result was still the same as this likable bay put the race to bed inside the final furlong. He will be taking in the St Leger on only his fifth career start, but clearly possesses bags of talent and may well be up to the task.
Santiago – 3/1
And then of course we have the Aidan O’Brien and Frankie Dettori combination represented by Santiago. Sporting the famous Michael Tabor colours, this classily bred sort wasn’t one of the most highly touted of the Ballydoyle runners headed into the season, but has been a model of consistency in three starts as a three year old, and ticks plenty of boxes for a race of this nature.
In common with Hukum, this Authorized colt landed his first career success on his final start at two before then being returned to the track at this years Royal Ascot festival. And also like Hukum, he scored in really good style at the Berkshire venue when seeing off a useful field in the 1m6f Queen’s Vase. Backing that up with a strong staying performance to land the Irish Derby, he was then no match for Stradivarius in the Goodwood Cup. There is really no shame in that though, and given his connections, proven class, and ability to stay the trip, it would be something of a surprise were he not to run a big race here.
St Leger Stakes Winners
|2020||Galileo Chrome||4/1||Joseph Patrick O'Brien||Tom Marquand|
|2019||Logician||5/6||John Gosden||Frankie Dettori|
|2018||Kew Gardens||3/1||Aidan O’Brien||Ryan Moore|
|2017||Capri||3/1||Aidan O’Brien||Ryan Moore|
|2016||Harbour Law||22/1||Laura Mongan||George Baker|
|2015||Simple Verse||8/1||Ralph Beckett||Andrea Atzeni|
|2014||Kingston Hill||9/4||Roger Varian||Andrea Atzeni|
|2013||Leading Light||7/2||Aidan O'Brien||Joseph O'Brien|
|2012||Encke||25/1||Mahmood Al Zarooni||Mickael Barzalona|
|2011||Masked Marvel||15/2||John Gosden||William Buick|
About the St Leger Stakes
The five Classics are the jewels in the crown of the British flat racing season. The 1000 and 2000 Guineas get the Classic season underway at Newmarket in May, followed quickly by the Derby and the Oaks at Epsom in early June before the final of the five, the St Leger, which is held at Doncaster in early September.
At 1 mile, 6 furlongs and 132 yards the St Leger is comfortably the longest of the five Classics. It’s also open to colts and fillies and, as such, is the final leg in both the English Triple Crown and the Fillies’ Triple Crown. Camelot is the last horse to even attempt to complete either Triple Crown having won the first two legs in 2012 and the chances of any horse adding their name to lists that include Nijinsky and Oh So Sharp are increasingly slim.
THE OLDEST CLASSIC
The St Leger may be the final Classic of the season but it is the first in terms of history, the oldest of the lot having been introduced in 1776. Anthony St Leger is the man credited as the father of this prestigious event. As a general in the army and a local politician, St Leger was a very well known man in the Doncaster area and he used his clout to put together a race which quickly grew from a local event to one which had significant national importance.
Owners of the best flat racing horses soon began entering their charges in the St Leger and it was one of racing’s earliest stars, Champion, who really improved the fortunes of the race. He had built up a large following thanks to his win in the Derby at Epsom and his completing the double at Doncaster really helped to put the St Leger on the map.
Talking of the map, the St Leger has always been indelibly linked with Doncaster. It has been held at Town Moor for around 250 years even though a plethora of reasons have seen it held at various tracks over the years including, Ayr, Manchester, Newmarket, Thirsk and York.
Those infrequent changes aside, Doncaster is one of many constants of the history of the St Leger. The race itself has undergone surprisingly few changes since being won by a then unnamed filly in 1776. The distance was trimmed from an original 2 miles to 1 mile, 6 furlongs and 193 yards in 1813 which is almost exactly the same as the current trip and save for the exclusion of geldings in 1906, the St Leger has remained largely untouched since then.
SCOTT BROTHERS’ RECORDS TO STAND THE TEST OF TIME
The one element of the St Leger that always changes is the horses taking part. As with the other Classics, the race is open only to three-year-olds so repeat winners are only possible in the shape of jockeys, trainers and owners.
The record for the most successful jockey in the history of the St Leger is held by Bill Scott. His first win in the Doncaster Classic came on board Jack Spigot in 1821 and his ninth came courtesy of the 1846 winner, Sir Tatton Sykes. Interestingly, neither of those two was trained by his brother, John Scott, who trained an incredible 16 St Leger winners. The brothers did combine on six other occasions though including with The Colonel (1828), Rowton (1829) and Satirist (1841).
The records of the Scott brothers have stood the test of time and it is very difficult to imagine that any jockey or trainer will break them in the years to come. Several jockeys have had impressive levels of success in the St Leger including John Jackson (eight wins), Lester Piggott (eight wins), Fred Archer (six wins), Ben Smith (six wins) and Frankie Dettori (six wins) whilst Aidan O’Brien, Cecil Boyd-Rochfort, John Porter and Matthew Dawson all have six wins as trainers as of 2019.
IMPROVING TYPES INCREASINGLY FEARED
The five Classics will always be spoken of as a collection of races but they’re each individual contests which demand different attributes of the winners. Those differences have only become more pronounced in recent years with trainers and owners treating the St Leger as an increasingly specialised race, explaining the lack of many horses even trying to win it after earlier Classic success.
Long distance flat racing is in a good place at the moment though, with several top quality races spread throughout the year. There is no doubt, however, that the best of the best run over shorter to middle distances. That has opened the race up considerably, with horses who failed in some of the season’s biggest races over shorter trips going on to claim success at Doncaster. Aidan O’Brien is just one of a number of big name, experienced trainers who have turned horses who looked short of the quality required to win at the Group 1 level into St Leger winners.
ST LEGER WINNER’S PREVIOUS FORM: 2010 TO 2019
|Year||Horse||Derby Position||Previous Group Victories|
|Group 1||Group 2||Group 3|
|2019||Logician||Did not run||✘||✔||✘|
|2016||Harbour law||Did not run||✘||✘||✘|
|2015||Simple Verse||Did not run||✘||✘||✔|
|2013||Leading Light||Did not run||✘||✘||✔✔|
|2012||Encke||Did not run||✘||✘||✘|
|2010||Arctic Cosmos||Did not run||✘||✘||✘|
2018 winner Kew Gardens is a prime example. Few would have picked him out as a St Leger winner after a mediocre performance in the Derby but he had already shown some impressive form having been stepped up in trip before contesting the St Leger. A number of horses have had success at Doncaster having been also-rans in the Derby but almost all of those had already proven their stamina ahead of the final Classic.
The stats show that horses who have already won a Group level race and/or a race over at least 1 mile 2 furlongs are the ones to support in the betting. In terms of specific races, the Great Voltigeur Stakes and the Gordon Stakes are ones to keep an eye on but any horse who takes big steps forward over longer trips will rightly be viewed as a danger. The only caveat to note is that 2013 winner Leading Light was a rarity in that he competed in a race which was longer than the St Leger.
Punters and bookies alike understand the changing nature of the St Leger. Five horses inside the top two of the betting won the race between 2013 and 2019, a run which followed an extended period without a winning favourite. What the future will hold remains to be seen, but we could see that trend of more fancied horses winning continue, thus delivering the bookies a little bit of pain to end the Classic campaign off!